George is happy lying on the trolley. He has his ancient, liver-spotted hands neatly resting in his lap, his slippers just poking out of the blanket the other end. His glasses catch the light as he looks this way and that.
‘Bessie downed it,’ he says.
George’s false teeth don’t fit. The top plate is completely adrift, so whenever he talks, it drops and rocks from side to side, following the movement of his lower jaw. He also has to make urgent little gabbling motions with his lips from time to time, to stop it shooting out. It’s disconcerting to watch, like seeing two mouths working where there should only be one. And the upshot is, George’s words get completely mangled. We’ve tried to persuade him to take the plate out, but he won’t have it.
‘A cargo rout in Aberdeen,’ he says.
‘Sorry, George? A what?’
The only way you can understand him is to loosen your mind to the same extent as the plate. It’s like reading bad handwriting. If you don’t panic and simply let go, the sense will come. Hopefully.
‘Howling at the zoo was under the influence?’ he says.
‘How long have I worked on the ambulance?’
He reaches out and touches my arm.
‘I used a stork under brushes’
‘On the buses?’
‘Acorn chucked her.’
Another trolley comes through the doors and we all shuffle down a touch.
‘Move right down inside the car, please,’ I say.
He laughs, shakes his head, leans up and touches me on the arm.
‘Roofer wool martian dropped.’